I’ve been practicing the discipline of keeping quiet, building the practice into my days as much as possible. It’s hard. I imagine my mother would have appreciated this habit during my boyhood. I have always had a mouth. That’s how she would have explained me or my sarcasm or my tongue. “He has a mouth.”
What can I tell you? Our gifts come early. Usually they’re so sharp when they come that we damage people and things from naivete, passion, and recklessness. But I’m learning to close my mouth, to sit and listen, and keep some of those words down. I muttered a prayer at the end of my morning silence. To be clear, solitude is about listening, not praying, but at the end of it, I felt like I should say something. I’m not used to listening to someone or Someone without saying something. This is no perfect discipline for me. Like I said, it’s hard. I’m new at this. It’s not like fasting where you simply restrain yourself from food (and that is an overstatement to make the point). So, I said a prayer. I restricted myself to one line. It was something about me being able to see and hear God today.
I was in a garden not far from my home. I looked over as I started to leave, got up from the flat rock that had been my chair. The garden got crowded. Paired bicyclists walked through the winding paths. One guy was sitting with a backpack looking like he was doing something similar to what I had been doing. Ducks. I saw ducks. And it occurred to me that if you pray to see God or hear God–whatever you believe about those sensual experiences–you have to slow down, open your ears to hear and open your eyes to see. You have to look to see.